The Queen of Country and Queen Latifah filmed the comedy “Joyful Noise” in 2012, with a food fight scene shot at Howard’s Restaurant, a Smyrna landmark.
Parton said she felt welcomed by the community while shooting the film over a three-and-a-half-month span.
“I love that restaurant, and I said even after the movie was over, I kept thinking I was going to go back over there and actually eat,” she said. “I loved that place and the people.”
Parton said she tried to use as many locals in the movie as possible.
One of those locals was Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, who served as an extra. Bacon said he has a biscuit from the food fight he stores in his freezer as a souvenir.
Watching how Parton interacted with the many movie extras raised his opinion of the blond bombshell, he said.
“Of course everybody loves her because her — how can I say this and say it right — her figure and what she’s famous for, but I’ll tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever met a more genuine, honest person,” Bacon said. “She went around and spoke to every single extra, and there’s probably about 70, maybe, extras. She went around to wherever you were sitting at, she spoke to every single person, which really impressed me so much. She was just straight up.”
When the movie was released, Bacon said he, his friend, Bobby Martin, who owns Howard’s, and a group of 40 others went to see it together.
“I think it was good for Smyrna. It was good for Cobb. It was good for the state,” Bacon said. “She’s just a great person.
While sitting at the dinner table in the Four Seasons’ presidential suite in Atlanta on Wednesday, heels off and feet curled under her, Parton called the making of the movie a wonderful experience.
“We love Atlanta,” she said. “Like you say, the mayors and all the dignitaries, they were always so nice to help us with traffic and help us get all the things we needed to do. But the people in general are just great, and of course they do a lot of movies here, as you know, but I’d always wanted to have a reason to spend more time in Atlanta,” she said.
The star has visited the metro area many times over the years.
“But I was so excited that I actually got to stay here and live here for over three months while we did the movie, so it was great. I rented an apartment from some of our friends here, so it was really like being home. We didn’t have to stay in hotels or anything.”
As for Howard’s Restaurant, “I love that place. In fact, I wanted to go back there and I still will one of these days.”
Dollywood is making a $300-million capital investment over the next 10 years, adding new attractions and resorts. To mark the company’s 30th anniversary, the 300-room DreamMore Resort will open next year.
Parton said Dollywood has always been tailor-made for families, but she is further emphasizing the theme park as a vacation destination for families.
“Because you can bring your kids, we’re hoping that people can connect more,” she said. “We just live in such a high-tech world. You’ve got your face in a phone or something, and families are just kind of going by the wayside as far as connecting.”
Born with a happy heart
As Mayor Bacon attested, Parton has a reputation for cheerfulness. But nobody is happy all the time, including her, she said.
“I have a good attitude, and I want things to be good whether they are or not. If I wake up in the morning, and there’s things that’s not right, I try to set about trying to make them as right as I can, but I hurt a lot; I’ve suffered a lot in my life. I am a tender, sensitive human being, and I’m a songwriter, I’m a creative person, and all creative people are extremely sensitive, but I try to not wallow around in sorrow.”
Parton said she makes the best of what life puts before her.
“And I often joke about it. People say, ‘Oh, you just always look so happy! I say, ‘Well, that’s Botox. Eyes just wide open!’ I want to be basically happy, and I am, but I don’t think anybody should be happy all the time because then you wouldn’t be able to create all the depths, and all the reasons. If you don’t allow yourself to feel everything, how would I write songs? How would I know what other people feel? So of course I have a good attitude, and I work hard at being happy, just like some people work hard at being miserable.”
Parton described how she remains grounded after rising from humble beginnings to superstar status.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a star, I still don’t. I am a working girl,” Parton said. “I love what I do. God gave me a talent, and I think it’s up to me to make the most of it, but I still stay close to my family. I still appreciate the value of a dollar. All I have to do is think who we were, where we came from. I think of Momma and Daddy, that’s why I write of so many songs about my home, but I stay grounded because of my family and my friends and my faith in God … I always say I count my blessings a lot more often than I count my money.”
Plastic surgery and make-up tips
Parton, 68, said she’s never shied away from talking about her surgeries, believing she can offer helpful advice to others thinking about having some work done.
“’Cause people that are of that mind, if you’ve got the money, if you’ve got the nerve, and you’ve got the need, then you’re going to do it,” she said. “My advice would just be make sure you get good people because any time you do anything, especially with your face, you know you can really mess up. So you got to make sure you find the best doctors if you’re going to do it, and as far as me, whatever I feel I need to do, I’ve done it and I will continue to do it.”
Parton jokes about her surgery, sharing how someone said to her that she looks like a million dollars.
“I said, ‘Well thank you, that’s just about how much it’s cost me,’” she said. “But it’s not cheap. … So if you need it, if you want it and you can have it, just be smart and get good people to do it if you’re going to have surgery of any kind. There’s always a risk.”
Parton is not one to go without make-up, rising every morning to put it on and meet the day.
“I usually wear the same, whether it’s nighttime or daytime, I just put my shadows on and I’m ready to go,” she said. “I like — like all women — if I’m getting to go somewhere I like a good hour if I’ve got it, but I’m so quick, I can actually, since I wear wigs too, most of the time, I can be out of the house in 30 minutes, make-up, clothes, everything, if I’m in a hurry, but I like to have a good hour.”
Her wigs and clothes she leaves to others to create.
“But as far as the make-up, I do that unless I’m doing a photoshoot or a movie, then you have people that help you out, but I’m all over with it. I have to have my eyeliner a certain way, I have to have my lips a certain way, so even though I have makeup people I still have to go and overdo it or redo it.”
On same-sex marriage
Parton made headlines this week after announcing her support for same-sex marriage. She prefers not to speak much on the controversial issues of the day though, she said.
“I answer what people ask me, and when they asked me about that I just said, ‘I think people should be allowed to be who they are.’ We love who we love, and I made my joke about, well, why shouldn’t they be able to get married? Why shouldn’t they suffer like us heterosexuals, or heterosexual marriages do? So I just kind of play it off like that. But I just think it’s not my place to judge, to criticize, and I think people should be allowed — they’re going to love who they love, and if they’re going to be with who they’re going to be with, they should have whatever benefits they can have. I’m not God. I’m not a judge.”
As for whether the South will ever recognize such marriages, Parton said she doesn’t know.
“I don’t know when, or if anything, will ever change in the South, but I know people will never change who they love, either,” she said.
A ‘Nine to Five’ sequel?
Parton’s latest work is writing a musical based on her life, which features a number of original pieces. After that, she hopes to launch her own cosmetic company one day.
“Wigs, makeup, jewelry, all of that good stuff, and then I would love to have a TV show whether it’s a children’s show — I’ve always wanted to have something to do with children, so you’d be surprised how many dreams I have, that I still want to see come true, and hopefully I’ll live long enough to get to do that. And do some more movies if they come along.”
But what about a sequel to some of her film hits?
“I saw where Jane (Fonda) and Lily (Tomlin) are doing a show on Netflix, a show of their own, so I’ll probably get to guest on that once in a while,” she said. “We’d always hoped to do like a ‘Nine to Five,’ but it’s like we’re too old now. They’d have to call it ‘95’ or ‘The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Older.’ So I don’t know. But anyway, I will do some more movies if they come along.”
Dolly on downtime
When she’s not touring or filming, Parton enjoys being a homebody.
“I look like a party doll. If I have to go to parties, if I have to go socialize for certain events, I go, and I’m good at it. But when I’m off, I love to be home, I love to play with my little niece and nephews, have them over, and get out on the golf cart, pack a picnic lunch, go out in the woods and play in the basement with them, play in the treehouses with them.”
Traveling the state with her husband in their RV is another favorite thing to do.
“And we stop at every fast food restaurant, pack a picnic or something I’ve cooked from home to take, and I read a lot,” she said.
Parton doesn’t watch much television, preferring to read at least one book a week.
Cooking is also a passion of hers.
“I’m always cooking for my brothers and sisters because we all grew up eating Momma’s food and my grandma’s and all. People don’t cook like that anymore, and my older sister and me are about the only ones who know how to do it, so I’m always getting requests from my family, saying, ‘Would you make some dumplings? Would you fry up a bunch the way you do fried green tomatoes? Would you make some poke salad?’ because I still do all those old things we used to do, so I took Momma’s place as far as the cooking.”
If you haven’t been to Dollywood, Parton invites you to visit.
“First of all, it’s a beautiful place to go,” she said. “Second of all, it’s not that far.”
Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., about a three-hour drive from Marietta, and Parton says to plan on staying for more than one day.
“But then, when you come to the park and of course when we get the resort that will be more reasons, but bring your bathing suit too … Dollywood Splash Country — our water park — that’s a day in itself,” Parton said. “Plus that whole area is great: Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, something to do whether you’re at our park or not, we want you to come there, but come on down and just have the best time of your life.”